Diamond Eyepatch – Bill Baird

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Though few analogue fetishists would likely admit it, a large part of tape-recorded garage-psych’s appeal lies in the safety of totally expected reference points and the comfort of bathwater-warm ambience.

Presumably, it’s Bill Baird’s very dismissal of these strictures that makes his Diamond Eyepatch glow with a welcome perversity. Said lo-fi obsessives will have to grapple with the Moon Glyph cassette’s mix, which favors—rather than tastefully mutes—Baird’s vocals and the active drumming of several guest percussionists. Recorded straight to tape with a casket-proportioned sense of claustrophobia, its fried, primitive electronics often resemble a thrift store Centipede Hz (of all things) more than some newly unearthed fossil of limited-run ‘70s vinyl.

Tapping into the nauseous energy of waking-dream states, opening track “Luby’s Purgatory” gives voice to those misfiring mental nodes that commonly afflict burnouts and insomniacs alike. Clearly, Baird takes a certain pleasure in employing his bile-green baritone to generate thoughts of deterioration, both physical (“gargle down some tooth decay”) and mental (“fried chickens walk across the road”). Or while weightlessly parading through the Day-Glo mire of “Trapped in Paradise” like some kind of nightmare figure exiled from a Sgt. Pepper-style collage.

Baird’s work was perhaps anticipated by ‘80s acid aberrations like Bobb Trimble and nick nicely; similar to Baird, those artists worked well within the confines of lysergic pop, but with a monstrous commitment to solipsistic visions that overwhelmed their connections to any sonic forbearers. No, Diamond Eyepatch’s relatively ambitious structure (side-A loaded with concisely warped songs, side-B diving headlong into oceanic instrumental expeditions) won’t surprise anyone familiar with Meddle or Soft Machine. Likewise, Baird’s always-unsettling intonations and bizarrely unflappable fixation on percussive experiments may trigger some Skip Spence flashbacks in certain susceptible listeners. Yet any probable influences are purely foundational support for the construction of monuments to Baird’s own interior world, a place alive with textures colliding, mutating, scuttling over one another like fragments of evolving pond scum.

Baird’s exploratory myopia apexes on the seven-minute musique concrète “Cabin Mix,” which was, notes the press release, “intended for 8 speakers,” in an apparent reverent echo (or is that piss-take?) of doomed head symphonies like Smile and Zaireeka. Whether he’s playing contrarian or is simply too mesmerized by his own visions to care much about anyone else’s idea of tape-pop tenets remains unclear. But the result is as much a beacon shed on a few unkempt psych pathways as it is a giddy affront to the current state of lo-fi.